Random Thoughts On Road America

Posted in IndyCar on June 26, 2017 by Oilpressure

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When qualifying for the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America was over on Saturday, Scott Dixon was the fastest Honda on the grid. But that was only good for the fifth starting spot. He was slower than all four Team Penske Chevrolets. When the checkered flag flew yesterday, the four Penske Chevys had finished second through fifth – but Scott Dixon was ahead of all of them.

It was an overdue victory. Dixon was already the points leader and had four podium finishes on the season heading into Sunday’s race – including three second place finishes. But neither Dixon nor Chip Ganassi Racing had a single win. As we are approaching July, for both Ganassi or Dixon to be winless at this point in the season is somewhat of a rarity. Now that Dixon has checked a win off of his list for the season, the rest of the field may want to watch out. Scott Dixon has a thirty-four point lead over second-place Simon Pagenaud.

Dixon is now the eighth different winner in ten races with only seven races to go. Any track on the schedule is winnable for Dixon – including Gateway, where he will be one of the few drivers in the field who has already raced on the egg-shaped oval across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. Any driver that is within one-hundred points of Dixon at this point, still has a realistic shot at the championship. Tony Kanaan in eighth place, is the first driver to trail Dixon by more than a hundred points. Kanaan might still be in the running, but it’ll take him suddenly getting hot with the drivers ahead of him suddenly having a ton of bad luck.

Speaking of Tony Kanaan, I mentioned Sunday that we came upon his car after he had crashed, while his car was on the wrecker-hook just past The Kink leading into Kettle Bottoms. I’ve now seen replays of the crash and it looks as if Alexander Rossi came over on him. As the NBCSN crew noted, it could have been payback for either what happened at Texas a couple of weeks ago, or when Kanaan eased over into Rossi entering Turn Five, forcing Rossi into the runoff area. Whoever was to blame, it was a hard hit directly into concrete – not a SAFER Barrier.

I’ve also seen a replay of Takuma Sato’s hit in almost the same spot on the track. It was odd looking because once Sato spun and hit the wall, the car kept bucking up and down as it threw dirt all over the track. A couple of times, it looked like the car was threatening to flip over. It probably would have had the wheels gotten caught in the soft ground just right.

I’ve not seen the television replay of the entire race, but I’ve read a lot of reaction and it has been varied. Some rated the racing as fantastic, while others have said it was so-so. Still others bemoaned the fact that there was too much contact. All I know is, it was spectacular to see in person. I got a video of the field on Lap Two, as they raced by going through Turns One & Two on their way down to Turn Three. I will tell you, it loses something on video. The cars seemed a lot faster while I was filming.

I am looking forward to watching the DVR to judge for myself how good a race this was. But from what I could tell as we jumped around to different vantage points – it was a very good race. If I’m wrong, I’ll get back to you next week.

I feel like I have been praising Road America so much for the last four days that I’m sounding like a broken record. We have been here for the last two years and we are already making plans to come back here next year. If you are a racing fan and you like unique and historic tracks, you need to come. I’ve been to many tracks over the years and there have been a few I have no real desire to return to. But I can easily say that I have three favorite tracks that I will always try and visit on an annual basis. They are, in (surprisingly) no particular order, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Barber Motorsports Park and Road America. Two of them are an easy drive fr us from Nashville. Road America is about a nine-hour drive, but to go up on Thursday and go back on Monday makes for a nice mini-vacation.

Road America always looked like a big deal on television. Once we got here last year, I realized it was an even bigger deal in person. If you can, start planning now to go next year.

TV Coverage: As I just mentioned, I have not seen the entire broadcast of the race – just a few snippets on You Tube. But I’m glad to hear that Kevin Lee was in the booth again. From what I hear, he’ll be in the booth for all but two of the remaining races this season. I think that NBCSN needs a dedicated and consistent voice on their IndyCar telecasts. Kevin Lee has paid his dues and would be an excellent choice. I will continue to lobby for that to happen until it does.

Where was The Captain? A friend of mine texted me just before the race saying he had heard that Roger Penske was not present and would not be calling the race for Helio Castroneves. I had not heard anything, but t dawned on me that I had not seen The Captain all weekend. I’m hoping he had a business or racing conflict and that his absence was not health related. Sorry for that to run through my mind, but he is now eighty years-old, which is very hard to believe. If anyone out there knows why he was not at Road America this weekend, please let everyone know in the comment section.

Strong Rookie Season Continues: Rookie Ed Jones continued his very impressive debut in the Verizon IndyCar Series. He had an issue with a lose car in qualifying and qualified eleventh. But the rookie kept his nose clean again and finished seventh. He is now tenth in points and is only nineteen points away from eighth place Tony Kanaan. Jones continue to impress with his revamped Dale Coyne Racing team. If he keeps this up, his services may be in demand by several teams next season.

Bad Week for Andretti: Road America was a weekend to forget for Andretti Autosport. Marco Andretti was the only one of the four Andretti cars that qualified in the Top-Ten (eighth). He did not hold that position in the race. The best performance of any of the Andretti cars was turned in by Alexander Rossi, who qualified fifteenth and finished thirteenth. Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified twelfth and finished fourteenth. After starting eighth on the grid, Marco Andretti fell to eighteenth when the checkered flag flew. Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato started twentieth and finished nineteenth. Ouch! That’s quite a weekend for a team that features a former series championship and three Indianapolis 500 wins.

Good Finish for Aleshin: After being stranded overseas Friday with visa problems, Mikhail Aleshin was back in the car Saturday. His practice and qualifying Saturday were abysmal and I really didn’t expect much out of the Russian driver from Moscow. Once when we were n Turn Five, we saw him try an impossible pass and he ended up n the gravel trap. But he kept the car going and re-entered the track headed up the hill.

But he kept fighting and brought the car home in tenth, after starting nineteenth.

All in All: The Kohler Grand Prix at Road America was quite the spectacle to attend. This didn’t appear to be the cleanest race, but it came across much beter than last ear’s romp by Will Power. Scott Dixon earned that win and he sent a message as he strengthened his hold on his championship lead.

But the points race is still very tight among the first seven drivers and it should prove to be very interesting over the final seven races.

I’ll close with a few more random photos from the weekend – and of course, the poll question. Thanks again t everyone who followed us throughout the weekend.

George Phillips

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Road America Race Wrap-Up

Posted in IndyCar on June 25, 2017 by Oilpressure

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The 2017 edition of the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America is now in the books. My disclaimer is this – if you watched the race on television, you know an awful lot more than I do. Susan and I were literally all over the track. We started out on the grid just before the command to start engines. From there, we headed to Turn One to watch the start of the race. After about three laps, we went to Turn Three and watched a couple of laps there.

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It’s Race Day At Road America

Posted in IndyCar on June 25, 2017 by Oilpressure

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Good morning form a cool, but not so windy Road America. The temperature was a brisk 51-degrees when we woke up this morning. In the car, the readout said it was fifty-eight. Although yesterday’s wind made it downright cold, this feels good and I’ll take it any day to the weather back home in Nashville.

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Road America Saturday Wrap-Up

Posted in IndyCar on June 24, 2017 by Oilpressure

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It looks like Roger Penske came to Road America with one goal – winning! After a forgettable Indianapolis 500 and an embarrassing showing in the Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle, Team Penske got back on the winning track at Texas, when Will Power led 180 of 248 laps on his way to victory. It looks like Team Penske is not letting up. They have dominated practices and now qualifying.

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Welcome To Day Two At Road America

Posted in IndyCar on June 24, 2017 by Oilpressure

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Welcome to Day Two at Road America. Yesterday afternoon, the wind picked up considerably to the point that the large flag stands that teams have at their respective garages in the paddock were blowing over. I also saw a sign in a concession area go airborne and strike a fan in her side. Fortunately, she appeared to be uninjured.

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Road America Friday Wrap-Up

Posted in IndyCar on June 23, 2017 by Oilpressure

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I’m not sure I’ve ever spent a bad day at a race track, but throw Road America into the mix and a good day seems almost guaranteed. Counting last year’s weekend we spent here, this is the fourth day we’ve spent at this track. I’ve never seen days go by as quickly as they do at Road America. We got here around 10:00 this morning. As I type it is almost 6:00. Those eight hours absolutely flew by. It seems like we just got here and it’s already time to go. We’ll have to get here earlier tomorrow to maximize our time.

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Welcome To Road America!

Posted in IndyCar on June 23, 2017 by Oilpressure

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Welcome to beautiful Road America, near Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Overnight thunderstorms have made for wet grounds and a green race track. But the good thing about a summer storm going through overnight is that the next day usually produces crisp blue skies. That’s the case here today.

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